Henry Clay entered the 2011 season coming off a trip to the state tournament semifinals last year. The Blue Devils, ranked No. 8 in Kentucky in the pre-season poll, figure to be the class of the city again, but also keep an eye on No. 16 Paul Laurence Dunbar and No. 21 Tates Creek.
Coach: Aussie Stoencheva (first season)
Last year: 20-15 (lost in region semifinals)
Top players: Melissa Boyle (sr. setter); Rachel Murphy (jr. outside hitter); Erin Vescio (so. rightside hitter); Tiara Taylor (jr. libero); Victoria McCoy (so. middle blocker); Mallory Zaino (jr. outside hitter); Shelby McLean (7th grader middle hitter).
Outlook: The Defenders' new coach likes her team's work ethic and teamwork, but also realizes her players don't have as much year-round experience in volleyball as their city rivals. "But we do have some very good athletes, and I love their attitude," Stoencheva said. "They work very well as a team." Boyle is the lone senior starter, while Murphy is the best all-around player as an outside hitter and passer.
Aug. 23—at Lafayette; 25—at Madison Southern; 30—HENRY CLAY.
Sept. 1—at Madison Central; 6—BEREA; 8—at Lexington Christian; 13—at Woodford Co.; 15—MADISON SOUTHERN; 20—at Dunbar; 22—SCOTT CO.; 26—at Pulaski Co.; 27—MADISON CENTRAL.
Oct. 4—at Lexington Catholic; 6—at Franklin Co.
Coach: Dale Grupe (14th season)
Last year: 42-5 (lost in state semifinals)
Top players: Jordan Strickland (sr. setter); Emily Stromberg (sr. outside hitter); Natsuki Yamawaki (jr. defensive specialist); Nicole Jenkins (sr. middle blocker); Emily McClendon (jr. middle blocker); Ariana Andres (sr. defensive specialist); Elle Barnett (soph. outside hitter/rightside hitter).
Outlook: Henry Clay is the highest-ranked (No. 8) public school team in Kentucky for the second year in a row. "We're looking forward to being very competitive in our area and in the state," Grupe said. Henry Clay will be led by Strickland, first-team all-state last year, and Stromberg, all-state honorable mention. Grupe said the Devils' schedule is the toughest they've ever had. "Hopefully, that will help us make a good run in the post-season. Regardless, we'll have fun trying."
Blue Devils' schedule
Aug. 23—at Assumption; 25—at Lexington Christian; 30—at Bryan Station.
Sept. 6—OLDHAM CO.; 9-10—at Crossroads Classic in Effingham, Ill.; 12—LAFAYETTE; 13—at Woodford Co.; 17—at Greenwood (vs. Apollo, Greenwood and Ravenwood, Tenn.); 20—at Tates Creek; 22—DUNBAR; 23-24—at Quad States Tournament at Lone Oak; 27—MANUAL; 30—MERCY.
Oct. 4—NORTH OLDHAM,; 6—at St. Henry.
Coach: Chris Langston (18th season)
Last year: 27-15 (lost in district)
Top players: Emily Kincaid (sr. middle hitter); Sarah Jenkins (jr. outside hitter); Chandler Kinley (so. libero); Jackie Britt (jr. outside hitter); Brittany Smith (jr. outside hitter); Annie King (jr. setter).
Outlook: The Generals' strength is its veterans, with six players who started at some point last year. "Our weakness is we need that one person to look to as a focal point," Langston said. "Last year we had Katie King in that role, and Cat Starr was her lieutenant." Both graduated, leaving Langston looking for leadership as the new season gets going.
Aug. 23—BRYAN STATION; 30—SOUTHWESTERN.
Sept. 2-3—MADISON CENTRAL, CENTRAL HARDIN in Lafayette Invitational at KBA; 6—TATES CREEK; 8—LEXINGTON CATHOLIC; 12—at Henry Clay; 15—at Dunbar; 19—at Ryle; 22—BEECHWOOD; 27—at Pulaski Co.
Oct. 4—at Lexington Christian; 5—CLARK CO.; 6—at Highlands.
Coach: Mark McCloskey (fourth season)
Last year: 11-22 (lost in first round of region)
Top players: Alli Deaton (sr. setter/outside hitter); Jane Burns (sr. outside hitter); Cody Michaels (sr. libero); Lyndsay Young (rightside hitter); Emma Iler (fr. setter); Catherine Young (so. defensive specialist); Haley Vollet (defensive specialist).
Outlook: Working to be much improved over last season, the Knights will look to Deaton to provide leadership. Catholic lacks size and attacking ability, but McCloskey sees serving, passing and defense as the team's strengths.
Aug. 22—at East Jessamine; 23—at West Jessamine; 29—LEXINGTON CHRISTIAN.
Sept. 3—at Lafayette Invitational at KBA; 8—at Lafayette; 9-10—at Louisville Invitational at Ohio Valley Volleyball Center; 14—PRESENTATION; 15—WEST JESSAMINE; 20—at Lexington Christian; 21—EAST JESSAMINE; 24—at Highlands Cake Classic; 27—FRANKLIN CO.; 29—at Dunbar; 30—at Jefferson Co. Invitational at Ohio Valley Volleyball Center.
Oct. 4—BRYAN STATION; 6—LOU. CHRISTIAN.
Coach: Teresa Ford (sixth season)
Last year: 14-14 (lost in region semifinals)
Top players: Jen Evans (sr. outside hitter); Bitty Ach (senior outside, middle hitter); Allie Washing (sr. setter); Allie Evans (so. outside hitter); Emily Terry (jr. middle hitter).
Outlook: Ford is looking for leadership from Evans, Ach and Washing, an important factor considering LCA's youth and overall inexperience. As for the Eagles' strengths, Ford pointed to their "awesome front row with a lot of height and hitting capabilities. And the girls are close and get along great."
Aug. 22—at Lou. Christian; 23—at Woodford Co.; 25—HENRY CLAY; 29—at Lexington Catholic; 30—at Tates Creek
Sept. 1—at West Jessamine; 6—at East Jessamine; 8—BRYAN STATION; 13—HARRISON CO.; 20—LEXINGTON CATHOLIC; 22—WEST JESSAMINE; 27—DUNBAR; 29—EAST JESSAMINE.
Oct. 4—LAFAYETTE; 6—ANDERSON CO.
Coach: Jenni Morgan (seventh season)
Last year: 28-12 (lost in region finals)
Top players: Gabbi Thatcher (jr. middle hitter); Emma Landers (jr. rightside/outside hitter); Bekah Sams (sr. libero); Ellee English (jr. rightside/middle hitter); Madi Gilinsky (sr. middle hitter); Shannon Bruggeman (sr. rightside hitter); Alyssa Gatewood (so. setter); Joia Pollard (jr. middle hitter); Hope Gassett (so. libero); Jenna Mulert (so. outside hitter).
Outlook: Dunbar, region runner-up to Henry Clay last year, will go with a lineup that lacks a lot of varsity experience. But Morgan sees an upside. "We have a lot of new faces that bring a lot of energy and excitement to the team." Morgan said the team's strengths are its work ethic and intensity, and the players' versatility. "A lot of them play multiple positions."
Aug. 22—at Manual; 25—SOUTH OLDHAM; 30—at North Oldham
Sept. 8—RYLE; 9-10—at Louisville Invitational at Ohio Valley Volleyball Center; 13—at Tates Creek; 15—LAFAYETTE; 20—BRYAN STATION; 22—at Henry Clay; 27—at Lexington Christian; 29—LEXINGTON CATHOLIC; 30—at Sonic Blast in Franklin, Tenn.
Oct. 1—at Sonic Blast in Franklin, Tenn.; 4—HIGHLANDS; 6—SOUTHWESTERN.
Coach: Shannon Alford (second season)
Last year: 23-17 (lost in district)
Top players: Hailee Woodward (sr. middle hitter); Jennifer Carter (sr. setter); Ellie Schroader (sr. middle hitter); Carolyn Delchiaro (sr. libero); Brittany Smith (sr. defensive specialist); Kendall Beerman (fr. outside hitter)
Outlook: With five starters returning, including freshman standout Beerman (who made the USA youth national team), the Commodores have high hopes this season. "We've got a lot of experience and talent," Alford said. "All these girls played together last year, so we've got that chemistry. And there's more of a hunger with the girls, too." Tates Creek served early notice by winning the Apollo Summer Slam tournament in Owensboro to push its record to 7-0.
Aug. 23—at Boone Co.; 25—at Conner; 30—LEXINGTON CHRISTIAN
Sept. 6—at Lafayette; 8—SCOTT CO.; 13—DUNBAR; 15—at Ryle; 20—HENRY CLAY; 22—COV. SCOTT; 23—at Highlands; 27—WOODFORD CO.; 29—at Madison Central.
Oct. 6—MONTGOMERY CO.; 8—at Central Hardin (vs. Central Hardin and Owensboro Catholic).